Trial starts for terror suspect in U.S., Europe plots
New York — A terrorism suspect on trial in the United States was part of a broad al-Qaida conspiracy to attack targets in England, New York City and Denmark, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Prosecutor Celia Cohen said in her opening statement in Brooklyn that Abid Naseer headed a terror cell in Manchester, England.
Naseer, acting as his own attorney, denied he was a member of al-Qaida. He read from written remarks, referring to himself in the third person.
“He has no extremist or jihadist views,” Naseer said.
The Pakistani defendant’s decision to represent himself is one twist in a trial certain to have others, including the first use of evidence seized during the Navy SEAL raid in 2011 that left Osama bin Laden dead and testimony from British secret agents who will wear wigs and makeup on the witness stand to conceal their identities.
Cohen said Najibullah Zazi, who pleaded guilty in the subway plot, will be the first government witness.
Naseer was one of 12 people arrested in Britain in April 2009 on suspicion they were members of an al-Qaida-backed terror cell. After no explosives were found, the men were released without being charged but ordered to leave the country — a fate Naseer avoided after a judge ruled it was likely he would be mistreated if he were sent to Pakistan.
In a lengthy written statement submitted during the deportation proceedings, Naseer said he came from a moderate Muslim family that stressed education. He said he went to Great Britain to get a degree in computer science, not to attack the West, he said.
“Committing terrorist acts is not justified, and I do not consider this to be jihad,” he said. “I believe in spiritual jihad.”
The time he spent on the Internet on sites like Qiran.com was part of his quest to find a woman to marry, he said.
“I used to spend all night on the Internet in chat rooms talking to girls,” he wrote.